WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCBD) — West Ashley parents are voicing concerns about children having to cross Savannah Highway on their walk to a Charleston County elementary school.
Parents said groups of families will band together to form a “blockade” against cars speeding by — making themselves more visible on the busy stretch of highway.
Sara Daniels, a parent of two children who attend St. Andrew’s School of Math and Science, said her family lives too close to the school to use the bus. While they prefer to walk the short distance to school instead of drive, it’s too dangerous for her children to cross Savannah Highway on their own.
“It’s definitely a very, very dangerous situation,” Daniels said. “The cars do not see us. And they turn right into us.”
Daniels said the intersection of Parish Road and Stocker Road is the main problem area for families in her neighborhood.
When they are not able to make the walk both to and from school with five or six other families, Daniels and other parents resort to driving the short distance, adding more traffic to an already congested area.
“None of us want to drive anywhere that we can walk. We live here because it’s walkable,” Daniels said.
Daniels said she thinks the community needs a crossing guard to assist children walking to school. She would also like to see traffic signals be changed so cars are not turning into the crosswalk at the same time pedestrians are crossing.
Although Daniels said families in her neighborhood have reached out to the school, police, congressmen and the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Charleston County School District (CCSD) officials said administrators at the St. Andrew’s School of Math and Science had not received any concerns from parents about walking to school.
According to Andy Pruitt, director of communications for CCSD, St. Andrew’s School of Math and Science administrators said the “vast majority” of students walking to school live in the Byrnes Down or South Windermere neighborhoods, and do not have to cross the highway.
Pruitt said administrators at the school estimate out of their 750 students, about 100 students walk to school and there are approximately 200 cars in the car rider line on any given school day.
Charleston County is accepting public comment on improvements to several key intersections along Savannah Highway. Residents are encouraged to look through the county’s proposed changes and give their feedback online through September 2.
“The project team uses public input to assist with project development and implement suggestions where they are feasible,” Project Manager Herb Nimz said in a statement provided by Charleston County officials.
Local nonprofit Charleston Moves advocates for pedestrian safety, and Executive Director Katie Zimmerman said Charleston County’s proposed changes to Savannah Highway are not enough to improve pedestrian safety.
“Because the intersections aren’t really designed with pedestrians in mind, particularly children, there are definitely some worrisome interactions,” she said.
Zimmerman said painted or raised high-visibility crosswalks, pedestrian refuges and markings through intersections are low-cost solutions.
“All of us are tired of increasing traffic. And the best way to reduce traffic congestion is to split the mode share,” Zimmerman said. “We have parents who are trying to avoid adding their cars to the roadways. Let’s give them that opportunity.”
She said it is important for local transportation agencies to be collecting data to determine intersections with the highest pedestrian and bicycle activity when forming these plans.
“They’re being designed to move cars as efficiently as possible through the intersections without much regard for people on foot,” she said.
Zimmerman encourages residents to voice their concerns to the Savannah Highway Improvement Project team so these issues can be addressed.
“This is the chance to get those comments and to the engineers who are designing things right now. Let’s make sure that we get this right,” she said.